I am looking to buy my clothes from brands that don’t manufacture in developing countries where whey pay laborers near to nothing. I know there must be some, but it’s hard to find things that are not made in overseas factories with histories of underpaying and abusing workers. —María, 20, México
It’s awesome to hear that you want to be more conscious when it comes to how clothing is made. While trendy, easy-to-find mall shops are great for wallets, there’s a reason why what they sell is so inexpensive: The clothes are often made overseas in factories by people who are getting paid very, very little. Thanks to documentaries such as The True Cost, we’re way more privy to the brutal truths about factory-made clothing than we used to be—the human rights and environmental concerns when it comes to many chain clothing stores’ production processes are plentiful and often alarming.
I also want to make this clear: While some of Rookie’s Damn Girl articles mention stores that could possibly carry clothing made in overseas factories, it doesn’t mean you have to buy the exact same items from these stores that we’re using to illustrate certain looks. (There are also class concerns here, not to mention ideological ones: I am not in the business of dictating what you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT be spending your money on.) Everything is meant to inspire you to come up with your own variation on these style prompts! I really encourage secondhand shopping, whether it’s from thrift stores, flea markets, or your older sibling’s closet. There’s a myriad of reasons for this—it’s cheaper, it’s better for the environment since you’re recycling, plus, it gives you a better chance of wearing something unique!
There are a few other things you can do to avoid buying clothing made in sweatshops. Let’s talk about ethical clothing companies. Everlane is committed to fair trade, a term which means that a company is trying to create positive and empowering economic growth in the countries where they work, and total transparency. While American Apparel has been controversial due to allegations of sexual harassment against its previous CEO, all of its products are made by people earning living wages in the United States. American Giant is a great, transparently made brand for basics. Idylwild is a socially responsible brand that I love. I mean, look at this cute vintage-style shirts! Annie Greenabelle is an ethical brand with cute dresses, including this one:
Here’s a comprehensive, up-to-date list of ethical brands. I also really want to recommend that you check out the blog Thrift Eye. If you couldn’t already guess, Eli, the founder of the blog, is a major thrifter. She is also a huge proponent of buying clothing that is made in the U.S. Here’s her list of recommended companies for those looking to shop ethically.
Etsy is a wonderful world full of indie designers that make their own clothing. The super cute shop Home Cooked Karma makes all of their clothes in New Mexico. I also love the vintage-inspired dresses that are handmade by Jackie and Johnny in California. I highly recommend researching the local designers in your own area. It would be rad to support local designers and connect with like-minded people where you live. They might be able to hook you up with even more local shops that make ethically conscious products. Hope this helps ya! —Marie
I change my style from day to day, but I want to have a trademark. I like rings, skirts, and turtlenecks, and my style inspirations are: Young Tove Jansson, my best friend Alma, Elle Fanning, and Frida Gustavsson. —Astrid, 17, Stockholm, Sweden
Your style will most likely be a constant experiment—and that’s good news! Some things you’re into now might stick around, while others won’t, or the way you wear them might just change. I used to wear three rings on each hand for years—I felt like Mr. T! While I still love wearing an assortment of badass rings (including one that literally looks like a sparkly pink golf ball), I now wear fewer at one time. Try not to feel any pressure to have your personal style completely figured out—obviously, it can change! That being said, we can totally find you some trademark looks that summon inspiration from your chosen stylish sources.
Since, like me, you love rings, maybe those could be your signature accessory. You could do what I did and wear a certain number of them on each hand, or pick one standout ring as your trademark. This ring could be something you already have and love, like a family heirloom that was passed down to you. If you want something new, consider something old—hunt for a magnificent vintage find! You can search for vintage rings on Etsy and eBay, but offline options can yield cool (and sometimes less expensive) results, too. If you’re down for a shopping adventure, plan a weekend of hitting up thrift stores, flea markets, or estate sales.
For newer stuff, try a personalized piece—you can make your own ring with the help of the company, Melody Ehsani, which also offers rad premade ones: Look at this sparkly planetary design and this cage diamond! Snash Jewelry makes really cool verbiage rings, any of which I could see being a fun, signature piece. Imagine wearing a ring that says CANDY on one hand and DESPAIR on the other for a cute contradiction. If one of your favorite snacks are those crispy golden potato sticks known as fries, cop this one, and this one is a fun choice if you love math so much you want to marry it.
Now that we’ve covered your hands: Let’s turn to your style icons for some clothing-based inspo! Something that stands out to me about Tove Jansson, the creator of Moomin, are her many outfits with Peter Pan collars. Luckily, these make for a classic style that transcends time, so you can easily incorporate them into your wardrobe (and make your own here!). Another one of your icons, the model Frida Gustavsson, has repeatedly been seen in shorts with tights underneath—one of my all-time favorite fall looks! Elle Fanning’s style is pretty diverse, so it’s a tad harder to pin down, though I do like how she wears skirts and dresses with sneakers!
Taking all of those three different styles into consideration, I have an idea for a pretty kewl standout outfit that might work as your signature for fall: a button-down shirt with a Peter Pan collar, worn with dark denim shorts, tights, and a pair of Converse sneakers. Add your ring game, and you’ve got it covered! Here’s a version of my vision for you:
Have fun! —Marie
I’m really into ’80s fashion—think Siouxsie Sioux, Robert Smith, and the group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, as depicted in the movie Pride. The problem is, I don’t really know where to look for inspiration! Are there any cool blogs/magazines dedicated to this style/decade? —N., 18, Warsaw, Poland
Ahhhh, spooky ’80s style! This is a really wonderful world of style inspiration, and I just KNOW you will have an awesome time exploring this vibe. When I first got into this look, I was in my late teens and had just discovered bands like Joy Division, Cocteau Twins, and the Cure. I was so enthused by the way the music I loved could be reflected in the clothing I wore: I reveled in wearing long, black clothes that felt as slick as Robert Smith’s voice in “The Hanging Garden.”
To get started, make a playlist of your favorite dark ’80s hits. Once you’ve got a good mix on rotation, think about the themes of each song, and picture how dressing like that theme would look. A thrifted oversized black blazer, tight black jeans, and creepers were one of my go-to uniforms, as inspired by the repetitive nature of Kraftwerk’s music. When I went through particularly sad circumstances, Elizabeth Fraser’s voice reminded me that beauty still exists in the world, and I could capture some of it with a lovely black lace dress.
Let’s talk about a few basics that will make you look like the ’80s darkling that you are. Most pairs of Dr Martens will set you back around $100, but they will last you forever. Creepers, or a kickass pair of lace-up loafers, like these from ASOS, will also serve you very well. Don’t be afraid of oversized pieces; it’s fun to feel like the fabric floating around as you go about your day. A lot of the essentials—like a serious denim jacket or a giant white button-down—can be found at thrift stores for wicked cheap. In fact, it’s worth noting that the original goths bought most of their clothes from secondhand shops or made them themselves!
You mentioned that you’re looking for blogs or other internet places for inspiration! I highly recommend browsing Tumblr, as there are a myriad of Siouxsie fan blogs. One of my favorite Tumblrs, NowThisIsGothic, posts photos of old ’80s goths in their full-on teased-hair glory. You can spend foreverrrr browsing through the archives. The author of the Tumblr also compiled a book called Some Wear Leather, Some Wear Lace: The Worldwide Compendium of Postpunk and Goth in the 1980s, if you’re looking for even more awesome looks to reference. Arabelle Sicardi wrote this Rookie tutorial to achieve the Siouxsie eyes of your dreams.
I also highly recommend perusing the designer Raf Simons’ menswear archives from the early 2000s. Simons’ menswear was specifically inspired by this time period: For his autumn/winter 2003 collection, “Closer,” he worked with the Factory Records graphic designer Peter Saville to produce amazing parkas featuring Joy Division and New Order imagery. Go forth, gothlet! —Meagan
Any ideas for a funky way to personalize a schoolbag? —Freddie, 14, London, England
I know the point of uniforms is to help everyone focus on their studies and not judge one another’s appearances, but, man, they are so boring! I wish you could wear a bumper sticker on your back that says, “My Other Outfit Is Couture.” Thankfully, a backpack is like a song or interpretive dance: a natural medium through which you can express your inner self. Let’s explore some customization options.
Your easiest route is to add some large statement keychains to a plain bag. I like the idea of adding a bunch of oversized fur pompoms to a simple backpack. These ones from Etsy come in all sorts of colors, and they’re pretty cheap, too.
Another easy way to show off your personality is by sticking a few enamel pins on your bag. It seems as though enamel pins are everywhere on the internet recently, and you can find one to suit basically any niche interest. Do you like strawberry milkshakes? The painted-nails emoji? TEENY-TINY LEATHER JACKETS? Whatever it is that you adore: There is an enamel pin for that:
Why not pick a bag with a weird texture or material? A holographic backpack in a classic silhouette can give off a cool, “I’m a girl from the future who was sent back in time on a secret mission and I’m trying really hard to blend in at a regular old high school, but, clearly, I’m failing to do so” vibe. I like this one and this one. —Gabby ♦
Damn, kid, ya look AMAZING. To talk about yet even more ways to keep that style of yours on point, please send clothing-based questions to Marie and her co–fly humans at firstname.lastname@example.org, and include your NAME/NICKNAME/INITIALS, AGE, and CITY.